This is the story of my quest to train my three Dales Ponies for classical dressage, primarily by using Alexandra Kurland's clicker training methods, with a touch of others such as Philippe Karl and Anja Beran thrown in. I turned to clicker training because I had come up against some issues that I didn't know how to fix and because I wanted to inspire them to become enthusiatic partners. Bella and Jack are all my own work and have never been ridden by anyone else.

Bella, Grace and Jack

Bella aged 6

Bella aged 6

Treat Delivery

Jack aged 7


Monday, 10 November 2008

I LOVE Travers!!! Bella and Jack love it too, but that's just because it's what earns them the 'top' treats (Foxes Darks) at the moment.

I started by using the wall of bales to set up the movement, and after the first few attempts they both, after I'd dropped the reins and given them their treats, shuffled themselves around and started to go back along the bales in Travers the other way, totally unprompted, before I could even pick up the reins again! When I had changed the rein I had ridden them in a circle on the other rein first, so they'd never done it that way before; they just wanted to cut to the chase. Talk about keen!!!!

The reason I love Travers (and Half Pass, which Bella is now doing quite proficiently - I haven't tried it with Jack yet) is the feeling I get when they step away from my outside leg and wrap themselves around my inside leg (which is now back under control). It's just a wonderful feeling of softness and trust and, although I'm a little uncomfortable with the word, total submission. It's as though they've given me control over every part of them in those moments, which, in effect, they have. I have to hang around their necks telling them how fantastic they are every time, which they could probably well do without!

I was going to say that I can't wait to see how it feels in trot, but actually I can wait. Charles De Kunffy (yes, again!) says that "horses don't want to be something, they want to do something", so we should savour the journey and not long for the arrival. I began this journey into Classical Dressage thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to do Piaffe and Passage, Canter Pirouettes and One Time Changes, but now I think, if we ever get there, will I be able to get the same intense joy from just working on improvements, when nothing is sparkling, shining, brand new anymore?

I'm just going to revel in every single minute along the way, while we still have loads of 'first times' to look forward to.

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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!